LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States At…

LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, MARK J. MERSHON, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (“FBI”), and New York State Department of Motor
Vehicles (“DMV”) Commissioner DAVID J. SWARTS announced the
arrests today of six individuals on charges of participating in
an illegal scheme to retag and sell hundreds of stolen vehicles.

As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal

From August of 1999 through the present, the defendants
engaged in a scheme to alter, replace or tamper with public
vehicle identification number (“VIN”) plates and stickers for
hundreds of stolen motor vehicles — a process known as
“retagging” — in order to conceal the fact that the vehicles
were stolen.

The defendants would alter certificates of title to
motor vehicles, or obtain state-issued certificates of title
based on false information and altered out-of-state
certificates-of-title, so that the certificates matched the
fraudulent VIN plates and stickers on the retagged vehicles.
Through this scheme, the defendants created the illusion that
they held legitimate title to the stolen motor vehicles, thus
allowing them to either use or sell the vehicles.
The seven-count Indictment charges defendants RICHARD ESPINOSA, a/k/a “Ricardo Espinosa,” a/k/a “Diego Escalera,” a/k/a
“Modesto Colon,” a/k/a “Pablo Diaz,” GILBERTO ESPINOSA, a/k/a
“Raymond Morales,” JOSE COSME, a/k/a “Slim,” ADRIAN BERNABE, and
CHRISTIAN BERNABE with tampering with motor vehicle
identification numbers; trafficking in motor vehicles and motor
vehicle parts; transportation of stolen vehicles; sale and
receipt of stolen vehicles; mail fraud; conspiracy to alter and
remove motor vehicle identification numbers, traffic in motor
vehicles and motor vehicle parts, transport stolen vehicles and
sell and receive stolen vehicles; and conspiracy to commit mail

Six of seven defendants named in the Indictment were
arrested earlier today; MORALES is still at large. Two of the
defendants will be arraigned before Magistrate Judge GORENSTEIN
in Manhattan federal court this afternoon, one will be arraigned
before Judge FOX in White Plains federal court, and the rest will
be arraigned after removal to the Southern District of New York.
The case was assigned to United States District Judge GEORGE B.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence
of 80 years in jail and a fine of the greater of: $1.75 million
or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the crime.
Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative work of the FBI
and DMV, and also thanked the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Division,
the New Jersey State Police, the North Bergen, New Jersey Police
Department and the Georgia Department of Revenue for their work
in this investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney MICHAEL D. MAIMIN is
in charge of the prosecution.

The charges and allegations contained in the Indictment
are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent
unless and until proven guilty.

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